Marvel at the wonderful long haired German Shepherd

German Shepherds are America’s second-favorite breed. These versatile dogs make wonderful companions for active families. They come in many different variations, from show to field quality, short to long coated.

If you’ve ever come across a long haired Alsatian, you will most likely have been blown away by their majesty.

A GSD long hair laying and smiling on grass
A GSD long hair laying and smiling on grass

Perhaps that’s why you’re here. In any case, we have everything you need to know about our furry friends.

Where did the Long Haired German Shepherd originate? 

Max von Stephanitz is the undisputed father of German Shepherds. He originally wanted to create a breed that would excel at herding and guarding.

When sheepdogs fell out of fashion in Germany, he repurposed his dogs to serve in the military. 

The German Shepherd dog is meant to be a fully versatile breed, with their hard work ethic and loyalty leading their breed standard.

Max von Stephanitz wasn’t too fussed about appearance, but he was determined that the breed should not have long hair.

It wasn’t until recently did SV and FCI amend the standards of conformation to include these long coated beauties.

The American Kennel Club has stood firm in Max von Stephanitz’s vision and considers them to be a fault.

This has helped curb the growth of these dogs, with only 10% of all German Shepherds bearing the recessive gene of having long hair.

Short coated GSDs have much denser fur whereas the long coated dogs had a fluffier, sparser appearance.

Due to the fact that there are long haired Alsatians that do not have an undercoat, a common belief is that they had to be kept indoors to protect them from harsh weather which led to their being kinder and sweeter than the short haired variety.

In spite of this, don’t be surprised if you find a long coat German Shepherd in the police academy. Police dogs are prized for their temperament and trainability, with their appearance being secondary if even considered at all.

That’s why most GSDs in the police force are sable colored instead of the classic Black and Red or Black and Tan.

The Alsatian is a popular breed with many, coming in a second on the AKC’s list of top breeds, losing out to the Labrador Retriever as the most popular dog in America.

They are sometimes marketed as King Shepherds due to their luscious coats. Other nicknames include Smoothies or smooth coated Shepherds.

What does a Long Haired German Shepherd look like?

A close-up image of a German Shepherd long coat
Image source

According to the AKC, the German Shepherd breed produces dogs that are well-built.

Their body is longer than it is tall, and it should be balanced and curvy instead of angular, aside from their ears, which should be erect and triangular. 

The AKC says that the ideal coat is medium-length with a dense double coat. Long coats are considered a genetic fault and while they can be shown, they will be faulted in dog shows.

On the other hand, the FCI allows the long haired variety and goes on to describe how they should look. 

With the long-coated Germans, their guard coat is soft instead of harsh like the short hair varieties. It shouldn’t be as dense or close-fitting as short coated GSDs.

Long haired Germans will have “bushy trousers and a bushy tail”. They are even expected to have hair growing out of their ears.

Long Haired German Shepherd vs Short Haired Comparison

The long haired Alsatian is thought to be kinder and gentler as compared to their short-haired littermates. However, there is no hard evidence to support this, aside from the treatment that they get. 

A short haired GSD with red frisbee
Image source

Long haired dogs are seldom trained for work as their coats don’t offer them the same protection from harsh elements, therefore they are more often kept as companions and receive different training from their short haired counterparts. 

They do share the same intelligence and working ethic, which makes both varieties equal to one another.

They should grow up to be around the same size and are as trainable as one another, with the key difference being their coats.

Take a look at our comparison table below for a quick overview between the two coats: 

  Long haired GSD Short haired GSD
Size 22 to 26 inches tall (55 to 66 cm) 22 to 26 inches tall (55 to 66 cm)
Weight 50 to 90 lbs (22 to 40 kg) 50 to 90 lbs (22 to 40 kg)
Coat Minimal undercoat, long and silky outer coat Dense undercoat, thick and harsh outer coat
Maintenance High Moderate
Shedding Moderate High
Color Saddle, Sable, Solid Saddle, Sable, Solid
Lifespan 10-13 Years 10-13 Years
Temperament Loyal, athletic and confident Loyal, athletic, confident and a good worker
Intelligence Very intelligent Very intelligent
Sociability Requires socialization, great with kids and other dogs Requires socialization, great with kids and other dogs
Energy levels High High
Protectivity High High, but can be aloof with strangers
Health issues Hip dysplasia, bloat, skin and eye problems, stomach sensitivities Hip dysplasia, bloat, skin and eye problems, stomach sensitivities

Size: How big does a Long Haired German Shepherd dog get?

The long haired German Shepherd puppy will grow to match their short haired siblings.

Males will be around 24 to 26 inches (60 to 66 cm) tall and weigh approximately 65 to 90 lbs (29 to 40 kg).

Females tend to be slightly smaller and will only grow up to 22 to 24 inches (55 to 60 cm) tall and weigh 50 to 70 lbs (22 to 31 kg). 

Being a working breed, they aren’t the most suited to apartment life. It might work if she’s given a full time job like a seeing eye guide.

However, it’s recommended that they live in a house with landed property, regardless of whether they are a miniature German Shepherd or a regular sized one, simply because they are high energy dogs.

If you’re looking for a low energy apartment dog, you might want to take a look at the Frenchie or Shih Tzu instead. 

Coat Hair

The only difference between the long haired and short haired varieties is their coat. Short haired GSDs always have a double coat, but long haired German Shepherds might not, or have a very minimal undercoat.

This gives them the appearance of having a flatter coat, hence the nickname of “Smoothies”.

They will shed less, but their long coats do require lots of grooming, making them more high maintenance than short coated Alsatians.

Furthermore, since their fur is finer and silkier than their short haired brothers, they tend to float and stick to various surfaces.

A good vacuum cleaner is crucial in households with a German Shepherd, regardless of coat length.

As puppies, they are fluffier and have more feathering around their face, legs, and chest. You might even notice some long hairs sticking out along its back.

Take a look at Eiko bear the long haired German Shepherd as he grows from a tiny puppy to a large, poofy coated adult:

Sable has been largely regarded as a working dog color, whereas the classic saddle-type dogs are more for companionship and showing. The saddle pattern comes in cream, red, silver, tan, and even blue or liver. 

If you happen across a black, bi-colored, or white long haired German Shepherd, you might think they aren’t GSDs, but both coat types come in a range of colors, and you can get to know all of them from our German Shepherd colors article. 

Temperament: Are Long Haired German Shepherd good dogs?

The German Shepherd temperament is renowned to be calm and determined. Coupled with their obedience and intelligence, GSDs of all hair lengths or colors make excellent service dogs.

With the right amount of exercise and stimulation, they can be extremely companionable family dogs, too.

A long haired GSD training
Meet Zoey, an active long haired GSD on training – Image source

They are exceptionally gentle with children and other animals, but proper socialization is imperative if you’re hoping that your Alsatian will get along with your new kitten.

If you’re hoping to bring home another dog, try to choose one that’s almost the same size, such as a Husky, or a Pitbull. Golden Retrievers also pair well with the GSD.

It’s not that small dogs don’t do well with GSDs, but due to their size discrepancy, your Alsatian might hurt them unintentionally while playing.

Small children should never be left alone with a German Shepherd, no matter how well trained the dog is. Careful supervision is necessary until the child learns to behave around the Alsatian.

Training comes easily to the breed. Very rarely would you have problems with potty training or disobedience. The key is to be consistent.

If you don’t want him up on the couch, make no exceptions. You will also need to be patient, especially when dealing with a new puppy.

Male vs Female

When you’re deciding which gender suits you better, there are a few things that you might want to consider. 

Females are naturally friendlier and males more protective and aloof. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that females won’t make good guard dogs.

They are often fiercely protective of their families, whereas males are more possessive. Males generally bond strongly to just one person, making them superior guard dogs.

Many police dogs are males, simply because they are larger and look more imposing. There’s also the problem of female dogs coming into heat and becoming moody or disruptive to the canine department.

However, it’s no secret that females are easier to train due to their calmer and more attentive nature.

That being said, this is just a generalization and not all females or males will fit the descriptions above. Every dog is an individual and there will always be those that are contrary to the rule.

Proper socialization and training also comes into play when determining how a dog will act.

How do you take care of a Long Haired German Shepherd?

Their coats make them a more high maintenance dog than the standard German Shepherd. While they are generally adaptable to all climates, their minimal undercoat also offers less protection in the winter.

Because of this a short haired Alsatian would make better herding dogs since their thick coats will keep them well protected. 

Aside from providing the necessary shelter and nutrition for your dog, you also need to follow it up with appropriate stimulation.

It’s best to start when your puppy is young, so they understand the chain of command and learn how to behave.

Exercising your Long Haired German Shepherd

A running long-haired GSD
A running long-haired GSD

German Shepherds were developed to work all day. They are a tireless breed that will always have extra energy to spare.

This is extremely important, as an under exercised or under stimulated dog tends to become destructive.

They might bark excessively, dig up gardens, and develop separation anxiety. A bored dog, especially a smart one, will think up ways to entertain himself.

Don’t forget that when you’re exercising your German Shepherd, you should also be exercising his brain. Add in a little obedience or agility, but make sure your activities are appropriate for his age.

You shouldn’t overdo exercise when he’s just a puppy, especially since the GSD breed is prone to hip dysplasia. Start with short 10 to 15-minute walks, and don’t allow him to go over harsh terrain or down the stairs.

Swimming is a wonderful, low-impact activity that can benefit your puppy. They might not be natural swimmers, but they are athletic and willing. 

When they are fully grown, you should be aiming for more than an hour of exercise a day, but an ideal routine would be a brisk 30 minute morning walk or a jog, a quick 30 minute session in your backyard playing fetch during the afternoons, followed by an hour at the dog park in the evenings.

Dog parks or dog-friendly hikes are perfect for this energetic breed. They would happily play frisbee for hours on end.

Just remember that exercise should be dependent on your dog’s age. Before the age of two, he’ll still be developing and high impact sports and activities can be destructive to his joints.

Grooming: Do Long Haired German Shepherd shed?

No German Shepherd is hypoallergenic. Regardless of their coat length, they all shed seasonally and long coated GSDs require more maintenance when it comes to their coat.

Some owners would trim their coats to make them more manageable, but it is not necessary.

It’s important never to clip your German’s coat short. There’s no reason to deprive them of their natural protection. Their double coats act as insulation and protect them from the sun’s harmful rays. 

What is necessary is brushing them daily, especially if your dog is active and often goes hiking with you. Burrs and dead leaves have a tendency to get caught in their coats.

You don’t need to break out the shampoo and bathwater every time they get a bit of mud in their coats. A good brushing ought to dislodge it. 

The brushes you should have in your arsenal for the German Shepherd should be a self-cleaning slicker brush, a metal comb, and a de-shedding tool.

You can source them from your local pet shop or get them off any online marketplace such as Amazon.

They should only be showered when they start to smell, which is fortunate, because these dogs seldom smell, neither do they drool.

Furthermore, they are active dogs that seldom need their nails trimmed because they’ll wear them down naturally, but you should get your dog used to handling them, regardless. 

Wrestling a big dog to clip his nails is an undertaking best left unexperienced.

Feeding: Long Haired German Shepherd Food Consumption

Much like their shorter haired brothers and sisters, GSDs require a significant amount of calories to sustain them.

Depending on their weight and activity level, this means 2 – 3 cups of good quality kibble daily, divided over two meals. 

A long haired German Shepherd with dog food
Meet Sam, a long haired German Shepherd ready to dig in – Image source

Bear in mind that this dog breed is prone to stomach sensitivities, so kibble that promotes gut health or a healthy digestive system would benefit them greatly.

You should also try to keep them away from human food, as this could upset their stomachs. 

Diarrhea is a good indicator that the food they are being fed is not suitable. For kibble recommendations, take a look at our guide to the best dog food for German Shepherds here. 

What health problems do Long Haired German Shepherds have?

A sad long haired GSD laying down
A sad long haired GSD laying down

These working dogs are considered to be rather hardy dogs, with minimal health issues. As with most large breed dogs, they tend to develop hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia.

This can be prevented by getting a puppy from a reputable breeder or adopting a dog that’s more than two years old. 

Other health conditions that the breed is prone to are epilepsy, heart disease, degenerative myelopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, osteochondrotis dissescans (OCD) and Von Willebrands disease. 

Skin, eyes, and digestive conditions are also quite common in the breed. They often require a diet suited to their sensitive stomachs, as well as gentle shampoos to keep their skin healthy.

They live as long as any other German Shepherds and their lifespan ranges around 10 to 12 years. 

German Shepherds have been prized for their sloping backs and some breeders have taken this to the next level.

Excessively sloping backs have caused an outrage in recent years, and this deformity can cause spinal problems and chronic pain.

How much is a Long Haired German Shepherd?

Long haired German Shepherd puppy with one ear down
Image source

Due to the recessive genes of the long hair German Shepherd, you might have a harder time finding one from a reputable breeder.

What we suggest is looking into breeders that focus on temperament and ask if they might have a long haired puppy. These puppies tend to show up unexpectedly when parents carrying the hidden gene are mated together.

Breeders that intentionally breed long haired dogs together very rarely do it for the good of the breed, especially in the United States where long haired dogs are seen as a fault.

This sometimes makes them cheaper than short haired German Shepherds. Depending on who you get your puppy from, a long haired puppy can range around $275 to $3000. 

Long Haired German Shepherd breeders

Any time you’re looking to buy a dog, shop around for as long as you need. Instead of focusing on finding the perfect dog, think about finding your perfect breeder.

They should have the necessary records and papers to assure you that their dogs are of good quality.

Get to know potential sellers by visiting their kennels and talking to them. If they are reluctant to show you where their dogs live or show you their dogs at all, take it as a warning sign.

Respectable breeders will want to get to know you better and would be more than happy to show you around.

Long haired German Shepherds aren’t terribly common and not all reputable breeders are keen on producing them. However, they do sometimes crop up in a litter or two.

Here are a few breeders that sometimes do have long haired Alsatians in their litters: 

Long Haired German Shepherd rescue and for adoption

If adopting a dog is more up your alley, that’s great news! Firstly, you’ll be saving a dog and giving him a second chance at a loving home. 

Secondly, adoption fees are usually a lot more affordable than buying from a reputable breeder.

Breeding costs add up quite a fair bit, especially when the breeder insists on giving their dogs the very best (which is exactly what you should be looking for).

Last but not least, you’ll have a comprehensive look at the dog you’re going to adopt. From behavioral problems down to health issues, the shelter or rescue should be able to tell you exactly what to expect.

Furthermore, what you see is what you get. There’ll be no surprises such as having a puppy that doesn’t develop the coat you were expecting. 

German Shepherd Mixes

German Shepherds are also often used in designer breeds.

If you’re wondering about what it would be like to have a smaller sized German Shepherd, or one that is hypoallergenic, or a more family-friendly or novice-friendly mix, you’ll be able to find them at our German Shepherd mixes guide!

Here are a few to start you off: 

  • German Shepherd Poodle Mix
  • German Shepherd Chihuahua Mix
  • Golden Shepherd

Who should get a Long Haired German Shepherd?

A long haired German Shepherd laying on the grass
A long haired German Shepherd laying on the grass

German Shepherds are better off with dog owners who know what they are doing, especially since the long haired variety requires much more grooming.

However, determined owners who have the discipline to learn alongside their pooch is more than welcomed to try.

Alsatians are wonderful pets and make great companions for dog lovers. These puppies will just need slightly more time on their coat, as compared to their short-haired counterparts. 

Further reading: Similar breeds to Long Haired German Shepherd

If you love the German Shepherd, you’ll also love their distant cousins. Here are some dogs that are rather similar in both care and temperament. 

  • Australian Shepherd
  • English Shepherd

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